"I have no explanation. Maybe it is the fact that it is one inning, two innings. I don't know," Hunter said about his significant increase in velocity as a reliever. "Every once and a while during a start you'll see it. You won't see it like you did last year, upward to the high 90s. That's not going to happen [during starts], but there are flashes every once and a while."

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said he thinks Hunter can pitch in various roles for the club — but his ability and mentality fits perfectly in the bullpen.

"I think you can see how much fire he has. I think that's what allows him to do that," Wieters said of Hunter succeeding in relief. "It's something where as a starter you know you are going to have to pace yourself. But once he went to the 'pen he said he was going to give everything he had for his team to be able to win a game. You get some adrenaline running and some want-to and you can do some pretty impressive things."

Hunter has been a starter for most of his career, and says he'll always see himself in that role. But his priority is making the Orioles and helping them return to the playoffs, no matter the role.

"I'm still going to come to the baseball field every day," said Hunter, who has allowed three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 relief innings this spring. "It is what it is. I don't really have any preference anymore."

His primary wish is to stay in Baltimore — something his teammates are hoping for as well.

"Tommy's got a lot of energy and everyone in this clubhouse knows that. But the thing about him is he wants to get better and he wants to have fun. And that's what you respect as a teammate and a friend," Wieters said. "You can work to get better, but he is going to have a good time doing it. And so he's the kind of guy that can make everybody else's attitude on the field go in the right direction."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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